Judy Kaye, Norm Lewis, Betsy Wolfe, Christopher Sieber and More Set for York Theatre's 26th Annual Oscar Hammerstein Gala

Judy Kaye, Norm Lewis, Betsy Wolfe, Christopher Sieber and More Set for York Theatre's 26th Annual Oscar Hammerstein Gala

The York Theatre Company, dedicated to the development of new musicals and preserving musical gems from the past, has announced a line-up of Broadway performers who will honor legendary musical theatre writing team Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt (The Fantasticks, I Do, I Do!, 110 in the Shade, Celebration) with the 2017 Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre at the 26th Oscar Hammerstein Award Gala set for Monday evening, December 4, 2017 at The Asia Society (725 Park Avenue).

The star-studded line-up of Broadway's best will include Bryan Batt (La Cage aux Folles), Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford (I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road), Robert Cuccioli (York's Rothschild and Sons), John Davidson (State Fair), Rita Gardner (The Fantasticks), Adam Kantor (Fiddler on the Roof), Judy Kaye (York's Souvenir), Norm Lewis (Porgy and Bess), Michele McConnell (The Phantom of the Opera), Tracy Lynn Olivera (Ragtime), Frances Ruffelle (Les Misérables), Christopher Sieber (Matilda), Lesley Ann Warren (110 In the Shade), Susan Watson (Bye Bye Birdie), Betsy Wolfe (Waitress), and Freddie Gershon. (All subject to availability.)

The VIP Reception begins at 6:00 p.m. Richard Jay-Alexander (Les Misérables) will direct the concert and award ceremony, which begins at 8:00 p.m. Music Director is Andrew Gerle (York's Closer Than Ever). For additional information, pricing and reservations, please contact Director of Development Ellen Weiss at (212) 935-5824, ext. 214 or eweiss@yorktheatre.org.

The Oscar Hammerstein Award is named in honor of the legendary lyricist and librettist who helped shape American musical theatre through his collaborations with a number of different composers and writers. His contributions to such landmark musicals as Show Boat, Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and Carousel are a legacy for all time. The award was created in 1988 by Janet Hayes Walker, Founding Artistic Director of The York Theatre Company, with the endorsement of the Hammerstein family and the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization. Its purpose is to recognize significant lifetime achievement in musical theatre, and is presented at a gala evening held for the benefit of The York Theatre Company.

Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt met and began their collaboration at the University of Texas at Austin. Their first complete musical, The Fantasticks, opened Off-Broadway at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in May of 1960 and closed forty-two years later in 2002-making it the longest-running musical in the world. A 2006 revival recently concluded a run of almost eleven years. It has been seen all around the US, in dozens of foreign countries and languages, and on both television and film. Their first Broadway musical, 110 in the Shade (an adaptation of N. Richard Nash's play The Rainmaker with a book by Mr. Nash), had a successful run and was later revived in a production starring Audra McDonald. Their two-actor musical I Do! I Do! (based on The Fourposter by Jan De Hartog) ran for a year on Broadway starring Mary Martin and Robert Preston and is frequently produced around the country and the world. (One production in Minneapolis played for twenty-two continuous years with the same two actors in the leading roles.) For several years Jones and Schmidt worked privately at their theatre workshop, Portfolio, concentrating on small musicals in new and often untried forms. The most notable of these efforts were a pair of original musicals: Celebration, which moved to Broadway in 1969, and Philemon, which won the Outer Critics Circle Award and was broadcast on PBS. Their other works have included Colette Collage, Mirette, Roadside, and Grover's Corners. Jones and Schmidt received an Obie Award and a special 1992 Tony Award for The Fantasticks; in 1999 they were inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame at the Gershwin Theatre, and in 2012 they were inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.

"Honoring Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt with this year's Oscar Hammerstein Award just feels incredibly right," enthused James Morgan, The York Theatre's Producing Artistic Director. "They are longtime friends of The York's and our numerous artistic collaborations go back more than 35 years. We produced the premieres of Colette Collage, Roadside, and the long-run The Show Goes On, in which they starred-and all of which were recorded. Our revivals of their work have included full productions of 110 in the Shade and Philemon, as well as Muftis of Celebration, Mirette, Colette Collage, Roadside and The Show Goes On. They are truly woven into the fabric of the American musical theater, not to mention that of The York Theatre"

The Oscar Hammerstein Award is presented at an annual gala which benefits The York Theatre Company, and is presented with the endorsement of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization and the Hammerstein family. Past recipients include Stephen Sondheim, Betty Comden & Adolph Green, Harold Prince, C. Coleman, Charles Strouse, Arthur Laurents, Jerry Herman, Stephen Schwartz, Peter Stone, David Merrick, John Kander & Fred Ebb, Terrence McNally, Cameron Mackintosh, Carol Channing, Tony Walton, Joseph Stein, George S. Irving, Jerry Bock & Sheldon Harnick, Thomas Meehan, Barbara Cook, Paul Gemignani, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Angela Lansbury, and Joel Grey.

The York Theatre Company is the only theatre in New York City-and one of very few in the world-dedicated to developing and fully producing new musicals and preserving neglected, notable shows from the past. For over four decades, York's intimate, imaginative style of producing both original and classic musicals has resulted in critical acclaim and recognition from artists and audiences alike. Under the guidance of Producing Artistic Director James Morgan since 1997, the York has focused on new musicals in its Mainstage Series-most of them world, American, or New York premieres-by some of the field's most esteemed creators, and has also helped launch the careers of many talented new writers. Almost 40 cast recordings from York Theatre Company productions are now available on CD, including its acclaimed revival of Closer Than Ever (2013 Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best Revival); commercial transfers of such York premieres as The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!), Souvenir (Tony Award Nomination for actress Judy Kaye), and Jolson & Company, and revivals of Pacific Overtures and Sweeney Todd (four Tony Nominations including Best Revival) have all showcased the importance of the York and its programs. Recent New York premieres have included Marry Harry, A Taste of Things to Come, Rothschild & Sons, and Desperate Measures, another New York premiere, currently on stage. The critically acclaimed musical Yank!, which received its Off-Broadway debut at the York in 2010, recently opened to rave reviews in London, and the original York Theatre/Off-Broadway cast of the hit musical Cagney, which received its York premiere in 2015 and subsequently transferred to the Westside Theater for over 15 months, is currently on stage for a limited engagement in Los Angeles.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride



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